By Kevin Collison
The $39 million redevelopment of the former Kemper Arena into an amateur sports and fitness complex that’s expected to draw a half million out-of-town visitors yearly to the West Bottoms has cleared its last financial hurdle.
Developer Steve Foutch of Foutch Brothers LLC expects to begin work within two weeks on his Mosaic Arena development after being notified it’s been granted $9 million in historic tax credits from the State of Missouri.
Those credits, combined with federal historic credits, make up more than one-third of the project’s financing.
“That’s obviously the big hurdle,” Foutch said. “We were confident we’d get them, but a new state cap made for a more anxious ride. It was the last piece financing that had to come into place.”
Construction is expected to begin as soon as the city hands over title to the arena which opened in 1973. It has been obsolete and mostly vacant since the Sprint Center opened in 2007.
The Mosaic Arena is expected to be open for business by next July when the Heartland Futsal National Tournament is scheduled to be held there. Foutch said it’s the first of what he believes will be a flurry of events at the facility that he expects will attract more than a half-million out-of-town visitors annually.
“There’s a lot of tourism dollars brought in by these sports teams,” he said. “You see it with youth soccer particularly.”
The plan calls for inserting a second floor in the arena at the balcony level, creating two floors that will accommodate 12 basketball courts. It also will create a five-lane, 350-meter indoor running track and 100,000 square feet of commercial space.
Major tenants already signed up for the facility include KC Crew, and adult athletic league; the Special Olympics of Missouri and Kansas; SoPro, a business catering to computer games, and Mosaic Life Care.
Mosaic has signed a 10-year naming rights agreement. It plans to offer services there that include a clinic, fitness training and massage therapy.
The effort to find new uses for Kemper Arena has been underway for several years. It has been costing the city $1 million annually to maintain it. The American Royal had wanted the city to build it a new, smaller arena and demolish Kemper, but city officials balked.
Instead, the city agreed to sell it to Foutch for $1. As part of his redevelopment plan, it was designated to the National Historic Register to qualify for historic tax credits.
“In addition to the nostalgia behind the building, ecologically it’s better to save it and not tear it down,” Foutch said.
“This will be one more large event center for boosting urban development. When we look at regional and national tournaments, it will bring a large number of tourists.”
The developer also is currently auctioning items from the old Kemper Arena, including scoreboards and seats, that can’t be reused in the new project.
Those items can’t be sold until after Foutch receives title to the building from the city, something he expects to occur within two weeks.
This article originally appeared on the KCUR public radio website.